Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Sonny Gray

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 01: Sonny Gray #55 of the New York Yankees pitches in the fist inning during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 1, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 01: Sonny Gray #55 of the New York Yankees pitches in the fist inning during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 1, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

On Wednesday, June 6, the Blue Jays complete their series against the New York Yankees. Sonny Gray will take the hill for the Yankees in the series-finisher, while Sam Gaviglio draws the start for the Blue Jays.

Sonny Gray was originally drafted 18th overall by the Oakland Athletics in 2011. A promising young pitcher for the Athletics, the right-hander strung together a few great seasons for the club. On the final day of the non-waiver trade deadline last year, the A’s moved on from their former first round choice, shipping him to New York for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian.

The righty was acquired by the Yankees to help solidify a solid rotation for the postseason. However, this year Gray has struggled, unable to pitch to the level he managed while in California. Instead, the right-handed hurler has managed a 4-4 record, 5.50 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 79 ERA+, and 1.599 WHIP—effectively worth a somewhat disappointing 0.5 fWAR.

Gray offers a wide array of pitches: mixing between a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball, slider, change-up, and cutter. However, the cutter and change are seldom seen. Instead, he relies heavily on the four-seamer, sinker, and curveball.

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The veteran has used his four-seamer 28.6% of the time this season. He generates a fair amount of power for his slight 5-foot-10 frame, averaging a decent 93.8 mph on his four-seamer. However, batters have loved hitting the fastball, posting a .321 BAA, .536 SLGA, and eight extra base hits. Furthermore, the fastball has resulted in 13 walks to just seven strikeouts.

Gray has offered a 93.5 mph sinker 24.7% of the time this season. While the righty has struggled to produce as many ground balls this year, the sinker is not the problem. The sinking fastball has produced ground balls at a great rate of 62.96% of balls in play.

The former first round selection breaks off hard curveballs 22% of the time. Averaging a quick 81.3 mph, the hook has minimal 12-6 break, and some glove side cut. The hook just slightly edges out the slider in terms of producing punch outs, accounting for 21 of the righty’s 50 K’s this season.

As well, Gray will mix in a slider 16.8% of the time. The breaking ball averages a velocity of 84.8 mph with minimal cut and a fair amount of drop. The righty does a good job of disguising the slider as a fastball before it drops off the table. As mentioned before, it is just behind the curve in terms of strikeouts, responsible for 20 punch outs this season. Overall, batters have managed a paltry .192 BAA and .298 SLG against the slider.

Finally, Gray completes his repertoire with occasional change-ups and cutters. Neither have accounted for any strikeouts. Interestingly, the cutter holds potential to strike out batters, though, as it has produced a great rate of whiffs: an amazing 66.67% of swings. The cut-fastball has been hit once, while the change has allowed three singles and three extra base hits.

Gray’s year for the Yankees has been a mess of inconsistency. His starts this year range from a one earned run, eight inning start, to a terrible three innings, six earned run start. As well, he has yet to string together four consecutive starts of four earned runs or less.

Compared to his career numbers, the right-hander has struggled to produce ground balls this year—which was his calling card in Oakland. After posting an extreme 52.8% ground ball rate for the Bronx Bombers and Athletics last season, the righty has followed up that great year with a disappointing 45.1% ground ball rate. The main culprit for this drop has been the four-seamer. While the heater produced groundballs on 54.42% of balls in play last year, it has produced ground balls on just 38.78% of balls in play this season.

The Blue Jays have a fair amount of experience against the Nashville native. Teoscar Hernandez has managed two hits, both home runs, in five at-bats against Gray. As well, Russell Martin has produced four in hits in 14 trips to the plate against the right-hander. After a string of favourable starters in Detroit, Kendrys Morales will not be happy to see Gray. The designated hitter has managed just three hits in 22 at-bats and a poor .422 OPS.

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After a tough loss to open the series, the Blue Jays look to salvage a win against Sonny Gray. As well, Sam Gaviglio will look to improve on his last sub-par outing in Boston.